tv Ret. Gen. Joseph Votel Others on Middle East Strategy CSPAN October 11, 2019 7:12am-8:51am EDT
booktv programs showcasing what is available every weekend on c-span2. tonight we will show our "in depth" guests. lee edwards took viewers questions and talks about his book including the conservative revolution, goldwater and just right, a life in pursuit of liberty. journalist naomi klein talks about consumerism, free-market capitalism and climate change and takes questions on her book no logo, the shock doctrine and on fire, the burning case for green new deal and joann freeman, author of the field of blood, affairs of honor the essential benefits. watch tonight beginning at 8:00 pm eastern on c-span2 and enjoy booktv this weekend every weekend on c-span2. retired general joseph votel is retired commander of central command and was part of the discussion focusing on the influence of russia and china in the region, turkey's military strikes in northern
syria and us military leadership in conflict zones. this is an hour and 45 minutes. >> good afternoon and welcome to our newly renovated headquarters. i am gerald feierstein, senior vice president at the middle east institute. welcome to today's important and timely panel, examining centcom's approach to the middle east. this gives us an opportunity to reflect on the approach and explore prospects for an effective us military role in
the region especially given current news from northeast syria. we have a great panel of experts to discuss this with you today. kenneth pollack, dana stroll and we are pleased to welcome back senior fellow director of the defense of security program after a 1-year fellowship in the department of defense. we are happy to have him back and look forward to hearing his insights from his upcoming article in the 2019 fall issue of the washington quarterly entitled broken partnerships, can washington get security cooperation right? moderating today's panel of distinguished experts is eric schmidt, senior right are covering terrorism and national security for the new york times. since 2007 he has reported on terrorism issues with assignments to pakistan,
afghanistan, north africa, southeast asia among others, the co-author of counterstrike, the untold story of america's secret campaign against al qaeda published in 2011. before joining the times, eric was an education reporter in washington. has come a long way. from september 1982. eric will introduce the other distinguished members of today's panel but before he begins i remind you to silence your mobile devices. the panel discussion today, being covered by c-span2, fox, and cnn but join the conversation on twitter. i turn it over to eric schmitt.
>> thank you for coming today. i want to introduce our panelists before we get into the discussion started on the far left, dana stroll from the washington institute previously served as senior professional staff members where she covered the middle east. on her right, general joseph votel, dissing with fellow, mpi, you know him as the former commander of central command, special operations command. kenneth pollack is a scholar at the american enterprise institute, from the national security council under bill clinton. he covered the middle east, particularly iran and iraq. on my left, senior fellow and director of the defense and security program here at mei and served as senior advisor for security -- the office of the secretary of defense or
policy for responsibilities for centcom. we will have a discussion, for each of the speakers. we will throw it open to you all. let's get a kick off where we stand. >> it is nice to be back at mei in this fabulous new building. there are other dimensions, and it is the root of everything. it is an issue that is well known to everyone in this room but one we don't like to talk about a lot. the arab allies do not have the capacity to defend themselves.
that was driven home in recent weeks and recent years like any number of development across the middle east. the vast majority of americans would love it if our arab allies better defend themselves. for those who recognize there may be reasons we would want to stay anyway at the very least so they could do more for themselves and we didn't have to do much for them. there are a lot of reasons this is a problem. in my new book armies of sand, and we don't see the full description here. and it had such difficulty, conventional military operations in the last 70 years and whether they were likely to
is rooted in large problems, are less likely fixed. they are rooted in politics, economics, culture, education practices of the arab world. none of that is changed very quickly. that doesn't mean the arab militaries are hopeless. if that is the concept of by, with and through, a virtue and a necessary. the truth is we might not have wanted to fight this way and when military commanders were first confronted with the problem of isis coming back into iraq and taking over extraordinary in syria is not necessarily the way they would like to have thought that war. that was what was available to
that and made a virtue of necessity and there are some important things to take away from it. and they have tremendous difficulty with modern conventional warfare. they are not hapless. there are things that can be done. there are ways to approach military operations that have allowed them greater success in the past and what the approach did was it forced our commanders particularly my friend sean mcfarland who was really the guy who figured out how to do this and set the stage, created the model we are using elsewhere and realized things that are true for arab militaries across the board have been for the last 70 years.
when they form small elite forces they tend to do better. when you can create a kind of military subculture the way the jordanians did in the 30s and 40s and the uae is doing today that stands in good stead. when they can rely on someone else's firepower and act as an adjunct they can do better. when they can do static operations, set piece operations they can do better. there are ways to do this that can take advantage of the skills that are there in arab militaries. i city the fact that we had a leadership back here that did not want to simply put an american heavy division down and wipe out isis by itself
which plenty of people were talking about. many in the military would love to do that because that was the easy answer. that would be a way to defeat isis and destroyed quickly and easily but it wasn't politically possible so they had to adopt another method. they had to go to the iraqis and secondarily to the syrians and say we can't do it for you, you guys have to do it yourself, we can provide you with a great deal of assistance but it the end of the will be iraqi and syrian combat troops who will need to take the fight and we need to figure out ways to train up a more effective forces and provide them with combat and enablers that will make them successful and put them in situations where they can be successful.
that was a necessity for the political restrictions placed on people trying to implement the mission but it does speak to deeper truths that there are better ways to do this and ways to think about how we helped train our arab allies that will allow them to do better than they have done in the past and it starts with recognition that those armies aren't like our own. i talk about it at length in my book, it is really obvious but the truth is we haven't respected it for the last 70 years which is the average arab 18-year-old boy isn't like the average american 18-year-old boy or girl. trying to train and arab boy the way we would train an american boy or girl is not going to work. it just isn't. they aren't the same as us and don't come from the same society, they don't think about
things the same way as we do, they have different strengths and weaknesses. our interest, the russians did the same thing, the british did the same thing, the french did the same thing. we all assume our system is simply right and it is right for everyone and when you try to train someone, the system isn't properly devised, properly adapted for their society. it doesn't work well. we find all around the world, militaries that do best are the ones who take someone else's system, when they take someone else's system they adapt it to their own society, their own circumstances and by, with and through forced us to do the same exact thing for the iraqis and syrian opposition. moving forward that does set up a temporary model until you have deeper larger societal change, societal change that i think everyone in this room
knows they were nervous about trying to implement it. there are other things that can be done but the big issues there bring us back to politics. both here and in the arab world because it requires going to arab leaders and saying we are not going to give you the same training we give to american troops because honestly it is not right for your forces. instead, we are going to tailor something else. and whatever the americans give their own troops has got to be the best. it is also hard back here in washington because when they pay us to give them the best training we are going to give them the best training and that
is how we train our own troops. there are political battles, a big part of getting us to the point that we can deal with these other set of issues. let me turn it over to general joseph votel and maybe he can strain out the 30,000 foot level. >> let me ask you about iraq. there was an uptick in violence in the last week or so. you can be more specific when talking about this model that was developed. what are the take aways that have been learned successfully or haven't been learned successfully given the time the us military spending iraq the last two decades. >> the key take aways we have learned, parts of the united states and learned it is not clear the whole us government has learned it. things we hit upon during the course of by, with and through. recognizing the iraqi cts, a small elite force of hector
shoulders in some degree combat capability. they can do some basic firing maneuver but enough that they could clear a photo that was tough but not superhuman under circumstances with a lot of american support recognizing that cts was critical recognizing the iraqi command structure. during the surge, and iraqi military command, malik he destroyed it after we pulled out in 2011. we need to rebuild to create the command and control circumstance to do what we do. giving the iraqis ownership of it, you building up a sense of
national self-esteem was also a very important one and there was this issue of picking out the right missions, not putting these guys in a position they had to deal with big free-flowing unscripted maneuver battles. that is not what the iraqi cts is capable of doing. limited offenses and lots of american enablers that could do fine. those are things we want to take away but the us military recognizes that is the way forward. that is the model for other militarys. the thing we didn't learn is obvious. the military piece of any of these wars is about 10% of actually solving. the other 90% is economic which we once again have blithely ignored and iraq is teetering on the brink of another conflict as a result. >> that is great. i wanted to pivot to joseph
votel. the american public have gotten a crash course of by, with and through in northeastern syria, you know quite well and the turkish offense of carried out that started yesterday after donald trump seemingly green lit this operation after a phone call on sunday and president erdogan, you were quite critical in an op-ed you wrote yesterday in the atlantic, tell us a little more about your experience and what you draw from this. >> thanks, let me start by getting to the area we just talked about. the current national defense strategy released in 2018 it really articulated principal priority maintaining competitive advantage against great powers and a key precept in that.
and the economy, military resources, there is a strong belief. i firmly subscribe to this, strong partnership can act as a mitigate or in areas where we accept some risk but where we also retain important national security interests. what i am trying to convey is partnership is part of the overall approach. we haven't have had a lot of tools in the past to deal with this. things like security forces in the system. this is unified action across the government to help the country develop their own security apparatus to answer to their people and their government. you can think of this as any one of our offices that act in
conjunction with combatant commands, and security requirements of partners out there. and special operations we have things like foreign internal defense. and military activities supporter from the government against internal threat. and there are different examples. in 2011-13, dealing with al qaeda, on the southern part of the country, working to address that. there are things like unconventional warfare. i have an important concept, the opposite approach here is where we support an insurgency against occupying power and adversary government and a
number of examples of this. one of the best ones is our support of the mujahedin in afghanistan during the soviet invasion. i would say our operations in afghanistan after 2001 especially in the north. working closely with the northern alliance to accomplish military objectives against the taliban and government that was in place. complementing this approach is the idea of by, with and through. what it represents is where the rubber meets the road, how we implement these ideas on the ground. i think it is important. by, with and through actually means, it kind of sounds the same but in my mind they mean something different. by implies these are activities
conducted largely by our partners on the ground, whether they are state forces or indigenous partners. with means with enabling capabilities and advice. we are bringing something to them to help them move forward. through refers to authority, approvals, agreements, expectations that are established. one of the things we work with them over a number of months and years, established red lines, we are not going to support any efforts to unite -- we are not going to go after the turkish incursion. these are the types of
expectations i am talking about. in the background of how this approach plays out on the ground, there are disadvantages to this approach and it is important to recognize what that is. that could be an advantage but in most cases we are beholden to the things in which they are doing things. they will not do things the same way we would do. ethically or legally, that is an imperative up front. the law of armed conflict, one of those expectations through which we are providing this support. the deeper we got into the euphrates valley in the last 5 or 6 months of the campaign, the syrian democratic forces, stopping elevations to negotiate so to speak with
isis, to minimize the impact on villages, i don't think anybody can argue with that but we are concerned how we maintained the momentum. we don't want to get a way to fight another day in terms of this. and the strategic risk as we have seen this week. we have always known there was a risk in our approach with turkey and that is a risk we have owned. there are some advantages with this. it minimizes our footprint and operational risk, tactical operational risk. we have seen a number of things, casualties and democratic forces absorbed what the coalition did. all cash will these are horrific.
i think you get my point that when you minimize the operational risk, there is a certain political advantage to that as we pursue it. another advantage, partners own the outcome. one of the most prolific pictures i use and a lot of presentations and discussions with the iraqi leadership in those all after the completion of operations is quite poignant and it is all iraqis from different flavors of their forces surrounding other members of the government raising their own flag and their own people for this. this is a really important aspect and owning this "after words" as we completed operations in syria, what we often saw, local partners beginning to set up local security and local governance. this is an incredibly important aspect. we can advise on that but they
are on it. this can be effective without this institution building aspect of partnership. we did not try to reorganize the arab militias. we took them as they were. and we do a little bit of rebuilding, sean mcfarland, his predecessors, successors are very key to this. then that is as accomplished and helping them be successful. the syrian democratic forces. and talk about it in some detail.
how it started was literally pushed against the border. and trying to fight to save their lives and we became aware of this through other contact in the region and through authorities and discussions that took place. there was significant discussion in the national security process throughout all of this and would have fire support to help them break out of this. what we saw was they were very successful at this, made good use of this and it through on the innovativeness of our people to communicate with them. nontraditional ways, not highly technical from our standpoint and leveraging applications. we got success with that. and we put people on the ground with them to enhance their successes.
we begin to expand our touch even more with them. our discussions of the national security council level, and approval being passed down to us to do these things. we added a train the trainer capacity, and brought people in the fourth and a mechanism to bring them up to a level. we had an equipment provision in there and significant policy discussions associated with it, we started with the arab component of it and came to realize we also equipping the kurdish portions of this organization because they were the backbone and a lot of difficult places where we were fighting.
and isr and drones, we had artillery, a variety of other enablers on the grounds to do this and expand it out. small start teams, the magnificent 7, 7 people, they were great and move in conjunction and did a lot of great work complementing the things we are doing. and there was a significant military task. and we have a by, with and through approach. this is a good model we ought to look at.
and we have to look and can't blindly apply this in other places. i would close by telling you, the success of this approach came down to three things. and building on the external strength and capabilities and organization we had and not trying to re-create them in our own image. we did not try to reach into spf and reorganize the kurdish force of it and arab militias are a different design. we try to leverage what we had and try to optimize that. we build very strong multi-as a lawn relationships at my level,
and there were several of us we are talking about throughout this. it wasn't just military. it was ambassador jeffrey and ambassador roebuck in the region. helping develop the relations. that was important because it built trust and allowed us to overcome a number of difficult periods that we had. to move forward to those whether that was we -- there has been encouragement and we are not going to go there and working through them and the decision made in december as we work through that and trust helped us with that and the final thing was the constant communication aspect. we often talked about expectations and tried to make it clear the things we would do and things we would not do.
we had a partner who understood that and i was able to work in those constraints. we will have more discussion about this so thank you once again. >> we talked about different programs whether it was afghans or yemenis or iraqis. even among congressional republicans who criticize the sense of betrayal you hear. this multinational on affects from your level all the way down to special courses, the green berets were working directly -- there was a real chemistry there. talk about what it is like on the ground. what are they doing day-to-day
forming bonds that are so hard to break. must be so difficult for your former colleagues on the ground to step back and watch this happen. >> that is an aspect of it and the strength of special operations and strength of all of our forces that we do try to buy into our partners and share in the danger of what is going on as these operations are taking place. we have advises better in locations where they are sharing danger and helping them work through this. they share meals with and live with them and we help with the evacuation of their casualties. this is a natural human interaction that is taking place so that does become a level of closeness to these partners. what was unique in this case,
you see one partnership you have seen one partnership. in this case, it was my experience that syrian democratic forces, their ability to work with us, to accept expectations and red lines we had and to put their trust in us as we pursue this campaign. you have seen some of that play out and the emotions is come through. this is natural human interaction. our soldiers, special operations, conventional, field is from our partners. >> from the perspective of a researcher who recently spent a year inside the pentagon, what
lessons do you come away with? what surprised you? talk about your experience as you go forward in the larger issue? >> there are open seats in the front if you would like to take them. you have a sense from ken and joseph votel were you counter in the region with partners but there are a lot of challenges we face here in washington. as far as the bureaucracy, how that functions or malfunctions. my view is a major ailment is internal to us. despite all the problems you heard about department themselves there's a lot of issues we have to face right here in washington to get this right. this large and exponentially growing enterprise is malfunctioning because our house is in great disorder.
if it starts at home -- you can have the most proficient american training on the ground, they can educate our partners on defense doctrine, hand out the best manuals, form the closest bonds, kurds or otherwise. all of that would matter little if the bureaucracy here that is supposed to create, supervise, sustain all this is malfunctioning. you can expect poor results if it is malfunctioning and that is what has been going on for quite some time. there are always exceptions. we could get lucky with a few partnerships. may be one or two. lebanese forces, an example that the general will tell us we are familiar with and
relatively speaking but not many like that. my bottom line is this. we do not have a reliable and sustainable system for security cooperation. it is the same thing. effective leadership to conduct this successfully. it comes down really -- my apologies. comes down to basics here which was leadership and organization, two fundamental variables that seem to be lacking with regard to security cooperation. let me say a couple words about each and what i mean about
each, leadership specifically referred to a robust and endorsement of security cooperation reforms congress came up with in december 2016 which ended up getting published in the 2017 defense. thanks to john mccain and his staff. not just endorsement but also serious, consistent supervision, oversight over the execution of those reforms. it is one thing to come up with those reforms and another to oversee the execution of those reforms. that is what i mean by leadership and it is lacking in that regard. organization, leadership is lacking and you can accept the organization to fall short. leadership create bureaucracy and the organization on the official setup and that has been lacking.
despite the reform of congress in 2016 which includes many things including organization, to create an office in the pentagon that is dedicated 24/7 to security cooperation. a single official to oversee this enterprise, the secretary of defense working on the direction of the undersecretary. that is certainly not enough. we have a tendency in this country to try to solve problems. we over litigate and have done it consistently. the patriot act, homeland security, office of the director of national intelligence as if that were enough to combat terrorism and the same with security cooperation. we created a new office for it and china. as if that is going to be sufficient to meet the priority the general mentioned regarding competing with china on russia.
let me give you a football analogy. like a losing football team that fires its head coach and they hire a new coach when all along the problem has been general management, ownership and culture. i'm looking at you, washington redskins. new coach is not going to cut it. there will be massive structural changes to get this right. one of the reforms -- those are important -- what are the just of the reforms congress came up with. these are game changers. the most important aspect of the reform is we would no longer throw money and hardware at our partners and expect them to become better warriors and more accountable warriors. that is what it says on paper. we are now required by law to
help them do the things the general mentioned, institutional capacity building. fancy word for institutions for defense as in the software of defense, not just the hardware. we don't do that consistently. maybe with one or 2 of the farmers because the condition somehow permitted us to do that but overall we just don't have a record of doing that successfully for all sorts of reasons, now we are required by law. congress has had enough of us not doing that and having those poor results and all those weapons ending up in the wrong hands, that is as a result at least partly of our failure to invest in institutional value. let me sum up the organizational problem in a couple words, the ones we face in washington. too many cooks in the kitchen, not just too many cooks in the kitchen, much worse, those
folks are not talking to each other. they have different recipes. they fight over money. jurisdiction, authorities, keep the kitchen analogy is a recipe for disaster in the biggest schism is between the department of defense and department of defense. that eternal battle over who owns what, who has the authority to do what, who has a bigger budget or is an ongoing problem and they get to those to work together. it got better during the -- and cooperation and assistance will require leadership with most secretaries. sometimes it worked better than other places. the working relationship, none of this is going to happen.
another organizational handicap is the cooperation i mentioned and the fourth estate. the cooperation agency -- this is a big organization, very large organization, they do tremendous work. they perfected the arms sales. this is what we are talking about. it has to do with institutional capacity and all of a sudden the responsibly rests -- which they have never done before. is this going to be a learning curve? absolutely. this is not going to happen overnight but i'm of the view it will be popular with my friends at the aca this is not a place to do it. it is not the place to take on the mantle of institutional
capacity building despite the staff they brought over from the institute for security governance based in monterey and they brought people to dc. this is not the place for it. i don't know what is. another civilian office whether it is independent or joined with the state department. in closing i know dana will talk about congress but i can't leave without a brief comment about congress because they play such a leadership role in at least coming up with reforms. that is step one. what i want to say about congress is just like other senior leadership in the executive branch you have to insist on accountability. it is one thing to which the guidance and another to supervise it and make sure all stakeholders that are part of this enterprise are doing their job. what taxpayers expect them to do. hold more hearings, close and open. ask tough questions. what is the desired end of the cooperation program? how much more can the partner
absorb? what is the absorbing capacity? how does this program affect national interest? does it serve us special-interest? all these questions have been asked somewhat in some ways certainly not consistently and without accountability. i'm not just talking about cutting budgets are making deeper budget cuts. it is consistent oversight of this issue because the american public are expecting it. this is a new environment in washington. i am sure dana has more to say but i will stop. >> i am going to go to dana and talk about congress's role in the absence a real leaders in this oversight, people like john mccain who was famous for examining policymakers a thrashing. >> thank you so much. i will take a step even further back and talk about the general reasons when the executive branch makes the case to
congress for certain programs or certain funding. why do we have security cooperation. the first one, we've been doing this for 60 years. the explanations and justification for doing security cooperation and all the activities and programs and colors of money that come under that umbrella here are three i would like to propose. the first is to build institutional ties and gain access and reinforce government to government, military to military, relationship that can be used in peacetime and leveraged in wartime. when you're on the hill and talking about why it was working before but not now, why should we continue to program? lot of responses, who else are we going to call a crisis? good example is egypt in 2011-2012 because of the history of foreign military funding to the addiction military. those were the most developed relationships the us government had in the ones the us
government fell back upon when we needed to talk to people, what was going on. touch points connected this issue. the security cooperations you have heard. already read acronyms in different programs and those are fraction of the authorities and programs we have, help us develop these foundational paths. number 2, to improve the capabilities of our partners so this notion of interoperability in wartime so we can talk to each other, for our militaries to know in the hierarchies were to coordinate within a system of partnerships. the idea, to expand and protect us influence through the network, you can't just be about us, there have to be capabilities on the other side. people, military professionals and civilians in the defense context who can talk to us, understand the language we are talking about handling which
they are speaking and coordinate to shared crises. counterterrorism and the notion of building partner capacity which expended very much after 9/11. the idea of improving capabilities of partners to help conduct counterterrorism missions with us and on their own assuming we share the same goals. and here, the notion, actually president obama and the previous administration gave a speech about this at national defense university and he talked about security cooperation provides more in the future so that we don't have to use our own military tools first and the notion that building partner capacity so we have capable and effective partners abroad is cost-effective for the american passenger. these take place on capitol hill. over the past several years specifically the system of authority and programs and funding sources has exponentially expanded.
that is what the law talks about. i want to talk about two court tensions in hell congress conduct oversight or attempt to conduct oversight of cooperation and building partnership capacity programs. the first to state department versus defense department and congress is interested in authorities and money, it authorizes programs and activities and provide the appropriations where those programs and activities. .. and what contingencies we may need to respond to. so examples the state department funding which you are probably have heard, for military funding, most of fmf, the
entirety ghost of four recipients israel, egypt, jordan, and iraq. that leads a small slice of the pie for the rest of the world and because that pool of fmf is not expanding usually return to dod who is all sorts of additional funds and w congress gives it a contingency operating fun and beauty is much more flexible authorities to respond to crises because the pool of funding is not expanding. bilal talked about commercial sales. the authority and the legislation litigating these programs hasn't been updated in years. and finally another one i want to touch upon is international military education and training. this is where we actually paid to bring for offices to american military colleges which is a great open but again the pool of money for these kinds of
programs is not expanding on the state department side. in contrast, dod's budget has grown especially for contingencies that there was an expanding patchwork of new authorities, and special program every time there's a new crisis summer in the world and this led to the fy '17 national defense authorization act reform that bilal was talking about. it was an attempt to take based on your definition of what the program is, 80-100 different security cooperation programs, all under the department of defense authority, attempt to streamline them, standardized metrics or effectiveness and evaluation, transparency and oversight and bring some harmony to the funding in how we measure fiscal year to fiscal year which countries in which programs are receiving what money to accomplish what. so i want to give you an example how this works in real life. when you're on the hill, either
the state department or the defense department wants to secure funding or approval for specific program, they sent a proposal to the hill called the congressional notification. if you're on a committee that has oversight over the state department, you may have questions about it and is it something you think state department is funding or for the international military education or the foreign military sales, that goes to either the senate foreign relations committee for the house foreign affairs committee. that means it doesn't go to the armed services committees on the senate or the house side who have a much larger budget and much bigger programs and are much more flexible and how they can spend that money. if it's funding under the ndaa that bilal talked about or any of these other programs, those notifications go to the senate armed services committee and the house armed services committee which means on any given date if you're a staff are looking with the state department is doing, you don't see at all what's happening on the armed services
side. if you're on the armed services side you have no idea what's happening in terms of foreign military sales because that's on the state department side. not only that, money, so for reports about a specific money is sent, that's sent to appropriations committee which is not the armed services committee or the foreign relations committee. if you're a staffer who wants to decide should a proven recommend my boss approve this notification, i would like the bird's-eye view of how this program fits into everything we're doing with this partner military or this government or this country. there is no answer because dod is not required to track these programs are how it spends its money or how it evaluates its broken the same with the state department is doing an different committees on any given day the getting different reports. and finally what's the point of all this? isn't it to type what we are doing at the military security cooperation or defense level to a broader strategic effect a policy outcome? who has responsibility over
that? it's really great dod got this broad reorganization outdoes things under the fy '17 ndaa, that's also because dod every year is a must past these of legislation. every year no matter what congress going to pass that national defense authorization act. does anyone know the was an authorization act passed for the state department? [inaudible] actually there was the one in 93-94 but the point is 93-94. what were you guys do in 93-94? this is the challenge and some of this is about deal. if you want to force the state department and defense department to do detroit planng and have to work together with members of cogs to come together with an authorization that actually directs the state department to do this and directs the defense department to pay attention to the state department. right now it's highly personal to did then and program depend. if you have a fabulous commander
sent, who wants to develop relationships with your some passengers then joint planning. but again personality dependent and program defendant, not because of legislation or because it's institutionalized at this joint planning has to take place. just go spend the rest of my comments talk about executive versus legislative tension which also affects how congress conducts oversight. at its core in my view congress see security cooperation and building partnership capacity as an area of leverage and that should deleverage to affect behavioral change. in general often on executive branch aside when advocating for specific program and its security cooperation or building partner capacity umbrella, the sense is the relationship gained or the specific on the grid near-term objectives are inns into themselves and not necessarily tied into a broader strategic objective or something that can be leveraged, i.e., they can wait if you don't see the desired behavioral change.
so two issues. one, the by, with, and through model i would argue is working in many contexts, in the sense we have plenty of partners in the middle east who by u.s. equipment, using u.s. equipment and apply use military training to address their own security challenges. what you are now hearing from capitol hill is it like the way in which our partners are dressing their own security challenges. a good example to saudi arabia and yemen and the coalition that they formed with the military plant execute in yemen. regardless of views on what is taking place in yemen, at its core this is actual security cooperation working. we have partners using our equipment and our training to something that they proceed to be a sacred chalice to them with very minimal help from us. another example is uae and egypt and libya, same thing, secretary chao just that they libya that we are not addressing, they're
taking our equipment and our training and training others in libya to address the challenge so they will have to be than large forces themselves. now the debate on capitol hill, to my view, has migrated to should we be doing security cooperation and how do we disagree to cooperation? because you as origin equipment and training is being used in ways that are more destabilizing to the region and that is the core of the debate we have to move forward. some of it can be addressed if we were to institutionalize this broader notion of time what we doing as a security cooperation and tactical and operational level to a strategic effect. and secondly, how does building partnership capacity short-term tied to the long-term strategic goal of the united states? and this is what issues come up every single day and how congress is conducting oversight of these programs. for example, is our training, the people that we've trained or the equipment we've sold or
transferred being used to violet human rights? to suppress in total repression or civil society? civil casualties, sipping protection issues? is it skewing the balance of power away from simply let institutions in certain countries? how do you evaluate the effectiveness of these issues and how transparent all those recipients over eight and 20? a great example is in used monarchy. we are not in humans we don't know how our equipment is being used and it's hard to frank conversations with our partners about exactly how they use our equipment. transparency, you want to know where our equipment is being stored. as our defense technology being protected and what capital,, where, how many come with access other than a center recipient country? these are challenges where working to debate and often in the executive branch is coming to talk to congressional staffer members of congress they don't have good answers which slows down the process.
because these programs are so large compared to what we're doing on the civilian side, you constantly see congress attempting to condition these, to mitigate or moderate maybe with some defensive weapons to a certain country but we're not going to sell offense if weapons. will give you this amount of money as a grant but will put conditions on make the state department grade your homework and are you doing xync? ex-wife in sequence all of these things at the end just -- doing x, y and z -- we have found better ways of engaging with our partners. i'm going to leave it there for now and turn it back over to eric. >> we have just a few minutes left for questions from the audience, with a good, please identify yourself and make sure there's a question mark at the end of your questions and will try to get as many as as a kicn the last five minutes or so. i'm sorry. i thought we were -- we've got lots of time.
sorry. [inaudible] >> for general votel community in five somethings that a by, with, and through strategy needs, advises the company divorces, training, and support but it also requires trust between the partners. and while maybe there's not a specific political commitment about what might regret the end of the rainbow, some sense that the united states is a reliable partner. there have been to back occasion which u.s. has blindsided the sdf, december 22 at president trump trump said we're getting out and recently when he said we were pulling forces back from the saison without any warning, anything of the kind. my question is, can the relationship with the sdf, has
been permanently injured? can it be sustained next and what would it take at this juncture even everything that's transpired to make this an effective by, with, and through relationship going forward? >> thanks. it would seem at this particular point that we've made it very, very hard for them to have a partnership relationship with us because of this recent policy decision. and so i think there's a lot of attention in this whether it is irretrievably broken or not i don't know. the syrian democratic forces in my view have demonstrated themselves be very resilient in the spirit we thought in december, i thought in december this was a breaking point for us. it wasn't. we managed to get to this. i thought when there was posturing and rhetoric related to earlier turkish intentions
come across the border, i thought this would be a a breag point. i thought when there was an incursion, i thought this would be a breaking point and they work. i think one of the things we learned on this is our partners are very resilient. they don't have many options. maybe that makes them more resilient. they continue to do this. i do know that from my own experience there that they felt very strongly. they had options. it was very common knowledge that the syrian democratic force leadership talk to everybody, everybody in the country, whether it was regime, the russians, , the iranians are us. so they have options yet despite all that they kept coming back to us. i don't know if it is a more, if it's truly broken or not. it does not look like it's moving in the right direction at this point from my perspective. i think that leaves them i think
with some very difficult choices moving forward here. in terms of how to try to resolve this situation. >> is anything the u.s. should do? >> i think the president was very, very clear in terms of, that we did not support this turkish operation in here, so perhaps the united states and other countries of the world should speak very directly about this, about their concern with this. as we try to touch on in our article here, the syrian democratic forces in a way provided a service to many countries in the world, either sacrifice on the battlefield, by the fact they have secured fighters and they had safeguarded their family members for a long period of time. and while there may be some assistance gained through that,
they are very responsibility for the world. i am well aware of the interests here, and turkey is legitimate concerns their own security, but a think perhaps what could be done is the international communities, , speaking more directly about their concerns on this and try to limit what is being done and try to get to another level where this could actually be discussed or addressed in another way other than through military operations. >> bilal, you wanted to make a comic artist request just quickly. just so there's no confusion over what we all mean by capability and capacity. i think the distinction is quite important and allies at the heart of this whole discussion. capability is the ability to shoot straight, and we've had some successes as mentioned with the cbs, whether kurds or lebanese armed forces. capacity is the ability to do that on a consistent basis. so the way you test that is if
you pull the plug on support, your support, what, where they can do this on their own. the answer to the unfortunate is most of them if not all of them cannot do this on their own. that's the challenge we all face here. they have to graduate at some point from u.s. support, and this is what i think we've all been trying to discuss year on this panel. >> questions over here. >> i represent the people's democratic party here in the u.s. my question is can to general votel, and the study that just issued a report in which one of their main recommendations was that in order to continue working with the sdf and also sustain the strategic alliance with turkey, the u.s. needed to
invest more in trying to bring turkish government back to the negotiating table because we know when this was happening between 2013-2015, the turkish government was meeting syrian kurdish officials, adjoining operations moved the shop from one place to another. my question is, could and should the u.s. were carted to try to bring the pkk and the turkish government back to the negotiating table over the opinion piece by one of the leaders of the p. j. can "washington post" and we said his mother is ready for this? >> thanks. i think the answer is yes. it shouldn't just be the united states. it should be of the countries and will, trying to help with this as well. it's in not just in our interest but in the interest of many countries here to try to resolve some of these long-standing tensions and try to bring some
level of stability in this i think there are mechanisms out there that could be used,, whether it is going to some of the iraqi groups that share a good relationship with turkey and using that as a mechanism. it's always better if we are talking and we're getting to that. i think yes, i think the united states, but i think others should be part of this as well. this is in the interest of more than just the united states for this issue to be resolved. >> in the back, please. >> thank you, joyce with the national. park my question is about the operation and how long do you see it going? [inaudible] why is it an event -- we see casualties. [inaudible]
>> well, first, so i don't know, i don't have any other independent source of information tell me how the campaign is going and how it is proceeding. i think time will tell with this. i don't have any unique insights on that. i'm seeing probably the same reporting we're all sitting in the same reporting that everybody is, and is coming through various media channels and other things that are out there. i don't know if we know exactly how this can play out. to your other question, i think my response is this, is that this area was relatively stable, and so interjecting now this level of conflict into it i think risks that stability. again, i do know that contribute to the overall objective that is
going on here. there are a variety of things that we've attempted to do in working with our turkish allies here to try to resolve the many of you are familiar kind of this discussion so-called safe zone or security mechanisms, as i kind of refer to them, which are designed to try to address the different interest in the area. this is a pretty complex problem. turkey has three legitimate interest here at securing their own board and keeping the people safe. at the same time the people's of northeast serious adverse legitimate interests in terms of being stable and being safe in hopes of being able to move forward with their lives. in the u.s. and the u.s.-led coalition have very valid interest in terms of making sure that an organization like isis can research. what were trying to do with things like the security mechanism is look how we can best address all of those interests and create a very best
situation we can. unlikely that was going to require compromise. no one is going to be completely 100% satisfied with the answer, but when you have these different interests, i'm not saying they're competing but there are different interests here that are represented, , mas it very, very difficult to do that. i think what you have to do is you have to try to pursue things like security mechanisms. this idea of joint operation centers, or patrols, of surveillance, you know, getting some of the kurdish fighters and positions off the border, limiting some of that. that's what that was all designed to do. in the end that was not enough for the government of turkey, so this is a very, very difficult situation here. >> i think ken and dana both want to, on the question so
please go ahead. >> i think the bigger question is whether or not turkish operations actually set the conditions for the next cycle of conflict. so there's a lot of questions that no entity, turkey nor the united states know nor the sdfn answer at this time. isis, it's not just about whether isis gains space to resurge. what happens to all the pop up detention centers all the cost syria or eastern syria and down that are not writing area that turkey has identified as its near-term secured objective. but the sdf will not have the capacity to continue to maintain custody as the ship with another what is refugees. if turkey as president erdogan has discussed moves all of these refugees from inside turkey into this area that is not ethnically respect to the home, what happens to all the property and implications there? third, i highly doubt aside,
damascus and sit on the sidelines where this goes on. what happens there and what indications of that? i would just say looking at assad, russia and iran, we know what it looks like and it's pretty ugly and it leads to many, many more civilian casualties which then creates the next cycle of violence have no isis thrives in that violence. >> i'll pick up on that point because you absolutely right. when you look at these, it's come war set forth in interventions don't work. they very, very, very rarely produce a positive outcome for the country trying it. the israelis, magnificent military can how many times did intervene in lebanon to try to come with similar objectives? it doesn't work. what you find over and over and over again is it sucks them into
the conflict, and turkey has far greater political and economic issues been issue. israel is a very strong state that was able to withstand the negative externalities of interventions in lebanon. it is not at all clear that turkey under erdogan at this moment is anything like the same resilience. so whatever the rationale in the short term, i agree with general votel, i can understand why from the perspective they feel the need to do this. when you take a historical perspective on civil war scum we've seen this movie so many different times. the actors change, the ending doesn't. >> how does this turkish operation change and what would you recommend should be the
priority of the united states government going forward in terms of conflict management? >> unfortunately, it looks like what's happening now means the recommendations were pretty quickly thrown in the trash. but what we specifically said is that working bilaterally with the turkey and in the u.s. acting as a mediator and confidence builder to work with the sdf, to take steps that would address legitimate turkish security concerns was working at this point in time and for stalling the risk of a turkish incursion, which the consensus of the group was a turkish incursion into northern syria at this point in time would get isis the opportunity to completely reconstituted. we already know even though it's been pushed out of a territory
perspective, , it is transition into it insurgency continued threatened local communities and those communities need time to build. with this operation the sdf would be focused to return north of protecting the families and communities which means we don't have our capable local partner on the ground keeping up pressure on isis, , and at the same time the group argued that the u.s. military through the sdf in one-third of syria was tremendous u.s. leverage to affect the ultimate outcome of the underlying causes of the syrian conflict through a political process because there is a military solution here. so just a few weeks ago at the u.n. general assembly the with announcement of the breakthrough, too soon to tell whether or not it's going to work, but the formation of a constitutional committee under the u.n. security council resolution 2254 talking what the end of the syrian conflict would look like, and it was diplomacy in mediation. if you all the stakeholders in the conflict argument at the table rather than paddling out
of the ground i would argue that is a good thing both for syrian civilians, for the region, and for u.s. national security interests. that one-third of syria u.s. control was tremendous leverage, and now we don't have it. we have most likely undermined whatever credibility we had left him the study group count and we travel the region was severely damaged from the to december 20 announcement about the u.s. drawn down its forces. >> first, i'd like to thank the battle for for a very somber bt very accurate assessment. it's going to become even more somber. our strategy calls for global competition with russia and china, and i like how you evaluate as to what we're doing in terms of the global competition in the region. putin seems to be and everywhe. he's in saudi arabia now, while
the chinese do not the military component, the chinese are also breaking deals in saudi arabia, uae, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. so how would you grade america's strategic competition with russia and china in the region right now? >> ken, do you want to start off? >> overhead there, ken. >> tank. i would give it a f. is there a f plus? were not. commits going to try, first of one level i think back to 2010. in the middle east know we talked about russia in 2010. russia wasn't a player in the middle east. we let them back in. they are now a major player in the middle east all over the place. let's think a little bit about what's been going on right now in the gulf, where the united states is as fast as we can
backtracking from our commitments allies the go back 45, 40 years, 75 years in on when you want to date things. president trump has announced that the iranians can attack the gcc states all the iranians like as long as they don't attack us. that's a fundamental the trail of our informal alliance with the gcc states in the fundamental betrayal of the carter doctrine and what i would call the reagan corollary to the carter doctrine. they completely upended things. it's terrifying them. they are going looking for alternatives. i think you know the russians and chinese are not perfect alternatives to us, that they need somebody, and if we're not going to get it they need to look for help wherever they can. again, i'm old enough, i know you're old enough to remember in 1987 when the kuwaitis came to us and asked as if we would like to escort their ships. the initial response of the
reagan of administration was no, no, we don't want to fight the arenas. so what did the kuwaitis do? they asked the russians and the russians said yes before they could finish the sins. we will put our fleet into the persian gulf, the beating heart of the western economy, signed as of. as a. how do we get there? all of a sudden the reagan administration realized maybe that wasn't such a great i get okay, maybe we do need to take on the iranians. we are throwing that right out the window. >> anybody else? >> thank you very much for your time. i don't know how you would like to describe the u.s. policy about the kurds, and in your opinion, in your view, which kind of the benefit, the
president have made this terrible decision to give the green light, enter very safe area in syria. thank you. >> well, i think it's fair to say that we've got an issue with our overall consistency here in terms of how we are approaching that, the kurds, and particularly our partners in syria. we certainly have been trying to approach this in a very direct manner and emphasizing partnership with tactical and operational level. i think they keep peace here is perhaps we didn't have full alignment all the way up and down the chain anything that is very, very critical to this. to put the decisions the president has made, the policy shift he is politically, that
has come front and center here. i don't think there's any other way of describing, whether it's inconsistent or incomplete. it's conflicted here in terms of that, so i think certainly some challenges with that. >> what lessons should we draw from the fact that iran was able to attack saudi facilities and mass 25 drones and cruise missiles? what lessons should we draw about the protection of saudi arabia and the u.s. the ability to even protect its own ships and assets in the gulf? given iran's proven ability throughout an incredible stealth attack.
>> i think there are several lessons you to learn. i think first and foremost is the technology, learning curve is turning much faster now. when you look at, just in my, take you through a lengthy discussion on this but but i jt look at my own, in her own development of unmanned aerial vehicles and how that's developed over the last 18 years essentially from 2001 to the current time. what we see is we see them, the iranians with the proxies, the houthis or whoever it happens to be, turning that curve much faster in learning much faster and taking advantage of kind the platform, the base of technology that's been out there, the learning that's been done and turn it that much quicker. that's a very key thing for us to understand. that changes the dynamic in the region in terms of our ability
to protect ourselves or our partners to protect themselves or their critical infrastructure. certainly we see not just an increase in quantity but certainly quality of iranian missile systems over the last number of years, and this is change some of the fundamental assumptions about how we would operate in this area. our ability just his team in the arabian gulf and conduct operations is, that would be a false assumption at this particular point. technology and these capabilities that iran has developed i think has changed the equation for us and again, i don't know, there hasn't been a public accounting for exactly what happened here in terms of that, and again i don't have any particularly unique insight into that but it certainly highlights that there's a level of sappiness here in terms of how they are employing this and they're studying this and taking the time and looking for ways to
do this -- savviness -- i think it raises stakes in the region. highlights the role that technology is having in this and i think it also highlights that iran continues to push for red lines and trying to push up against those, find that what they can get away with and trying to understand what it is that brings us to the next level here. i think there's a variety of lesson that we can take out of that. >> there are two issues i would like added to what general votel said which is exactly right. the first one is these technologies are very difficult to protect against. my guess is that we would have had a very hard time coping with them. there's the issue of a lot of the saudi assets were focused to the south but the truth of the matter is as general votel said, where you eat technology is going, where drones are going,
it's very difficult for contemporary current day air defenses to deal with. these things are very small. they fly slow. they fly very low to the ground. they can follow terrain. they are very precise. it's actually what i think a related point not, four is ago i was saying to people, having debates over the joint conversation plan of action, the iran nuclear, saying we were making way too many ballistic missiles in sins of the actual dangers decorating and we shouldn't get obsessed with the fact the ballistic missiles are not in the jcpoa. that's not the issue. these things are very, very difficult to deal with. second related point, pivots off something general votel said, the truth is our defense of the gulf was never predicate on your defense. it never has been. with the possible exception of the six months between august
august 1990 and february 1991. did i say we've never had the military forces in the gulf to stop any iranian attack. you know this one from your own work on saturday. the truth of the matter is the saudi, the gulf oil infrastructure so enormous, the gulf is a big, the iranians could always sneak stuff past us. the real deterrent came from the expectation of american retaliation of an american response. what really happened, the key thing to take away was, the rain is did the attack because they saw the non-responses in june and july, and they came away and they clearly calculated that they maintain plausible deniability that there was likely the u.s. would respond this time and so they didn't even figure an attack. the escalator. we've done the exact same thing. my guess is the hard-liners who are now running the government in tehran are looking at fencing
would tell you, these guys are a paper tiger. they are not going to respond. if we are not going to respond, then we are not defending the gulf. >> precise right. that's exactly my point, which is the opportunity to now rethink these deterrents architecture middle east. this is the strategic question now, this entire episode. the reason why with such a firepower exercise to deter the attack would we witness a coups ago. since we failed, this is now ample time to rethink that. it's not just about how many forces you have or how much equipment you traffic it's also about intention, about policy. all of that is related.
[inaudible] >> first of all, on russian china, -- [inaudible] go ahead, russian china, she could cooperation. [inaudible] how do you assess that? him [inaudible] >> i guess, first part of your question is what we pull back, where we choose not to part with somebody, when we choose not to provide capabilities, and we should expect that they will
seek other people and that's the world are willing to accept that risk, we are willing to accept that risk. i think that's the case. i don't think, i think my experience, my observation of the region, this is where we have pulled back from people in terms of this, where we've made it difficult to get systems to them, they have tried to fill those. >> sigar to cooperation, i know centcom is predisposed to using the tools to gain access overflight and basing but security cooperation is about a lot of those things. it's not just about the equipment they would get from the russians and the chinese. it's exceeding all those things to the russians and the chinese. it becomes a question to us can we afford doing that in places like the eastern that come in the levant or in the gulf. if you are to effectively prosecute the competition which it knew marching orders in the pentagon pixels not just about
the equipment. it's also relationship, the access and the overflight and the basis. because if we, exact with the joseph, step, they will would o exactly the same thing. >> i had a follow-up us will. there's the perception issue and the actual invitation of the systems. for security cooperation and difficult i'm not advocating that would change all these things overnight, but for security cooperation is very complicated. so ken first talked about that direct is what our partners want from us and not seek to superposed our system on them. well, heart of it is a chine or a russia doesn't try to change the hierarchy of partner militaries, et cetera. human rights, conditionality -- personal russia and china don't have parliaments. it anything like our congress. there is no human rights. there is no conditionality. there is no congressional requirement for a qualitative
military edge to make sure that whatever you are selling or training to others in the region is bounce against israel and israel's security. there's no concern from russia and china like we have about oversight to avoid corruption, who is staying off the systems consider. how you use the systems, , russa and china also don't care. when we think about our competitive bandage there's a whole system that we've created the sometimes makes us less competitive, and that is something we have to balance. but i will say for the study group, having traveled throughout the region, what is fascinating is how so many in the region believe the path to peace but what with the what gs through moscow. then you have conversation about exactly what has moscow committee to you that they've delivered upon and it's always a blank stare. there's nothing there but the perception gained even if yes military equipment is the best, even if our military colleges,
war colleges, are the best in people still want to come here, even if our training is of the best, right, even if our access to international financial institutions and organizations that assist of the military is the best, the perception game right now is that you are certainly better off looking to moscow or beijing. >> one more on the table, the reason -- i've many friends in the persian gulf, like going there, at least part of it. i'm not wedded to it as an american, right? if someone else could be in the persian gulf and the insuring a stable oil market, that would be fine. we don't have to do it. the problem is this. the russians are not interested in what we are interested with the oil market. they want a a high price of oi.
we have fallen in love with shale. we think she'll is a solution to everything and in the short term fifth-grader understanding, we don't import our oil from the gulf we never really did much less than ever did. as always about the entire international economies reliance on oil and the persian gulf contribution to that. right now 25% of the oil consumed from the world come from the culprit before beforee local look at the new u.s. energy information administration forecast. their expectation is that by 2050 the gulf will go from 25% to 31%. they expect our production to peak in the next decade or so and decline after that. we are not getting less dependent on gulf oil. we're getting more. by the way, the total consumption of oil is expected to go from 100 million barrels per day to 127 million barrels
per day. so this idea that we don't need to worry ethical of the world will be listed in is absolutely wrong. as i said, the russians are not interested in having a stable oil market. they want the price to go up. what we've seen is exactly -- they couldn't care less about the internal affairs of these countries. it's the biggest threat to oil production, and they're perfectly glad to help their allies killed each other, , to vote on people, et cetera. that also doesn't create stability. the chinese theoretically could take on our role. my hope is someday they will because they do have the same page as we have in the gulf. the problem is they don't act like it. they don't understand what i just said to you. the way they interact with the state in the middle east offered is very pernicious and exactly the way dana was describing. they do not yet understand the importance of how to do it. all that means that we remain a
replaceable at least for now. and the last point, what if we walk away and nobody is there testing sorry, somebody will fill the backing. i think that's not the russians and the chinese, and will be there rings. look around the region. when we pulled back, it terrifies our allies. this moral hazard argument which is been around for at least a decade has been disproven again and again and again in the middle east. our allies do not look into the abyss and say we now have to negotiate, with to come back to the table, be peaceful. they attacked each other. we see it over and over and over again. we are seeing it happen now. our role in the region has been to introduce stability by making it difficult for our adversaries to attack our allies, and reassuring our allies that the drive to fend for themselves because when they do, they lash out.
that is the role that we played and we are doomed to play it for some time to come. >> we come to the end of the session. i want to thank you all for your questions and please join me in thanking the panelists here for this presentation. thank you. [applause] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
>> this morning on c-span2 live from washington the family research council holds its annual values voter summit. among the speakers this morning, representative mark meadows of north carolina, usaid administrator mark green, and commentator sebastian gorka. live coverage here on c-span2. [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations